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TheQuietEarth

Made a mistake buying binoculars - advice needed

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I got the Strathspey 10x50s for a present at Christmas and they are fantastic. Indeed, they caused me to buy a full telescope (Celestron 127 SLT) because they are so good at revealing the night sky.

Recently I've been going to a new spot that has stunning views of large swathes of Glasgow, and although the 10x50s do extremely well at bringing the city and the hills that surround it closer to me I want something that'll do even better.

So last week I began looking at binos and before heading to bed noticed that there was a 3rd party on Amazon selling the Celestron Skymaster 15x70s for £42 plus about £3 delivery. I couldn't be bothered at that point to go through with the sale and told myself I'd do it first thing in the morning, but when I went back to the link they weren't available at that stunning price and had gone back up to £60 from Amazon directly and about £56 from Kidz Outdoors. Was so annoyed with myself for not taking a few minutes to do it.

I waited a few days for the price to fall again - it didn't, and to make matters worse the weather was getting better and better. Heck, I even dragged my telescope up with me to the viewing spot to get better views, which didn't work - too much air turbulence or something. Really got terrible views with anything but the 25mm EP.

I came back annoyed with myself again and then did another search. This time I found a newish entry with binoculars that, to my eye, looked almost identical in design (see for yourself in the link below) to the Strathspey 10x50s I'd received at Christmas. I reasoned that they probably came from the same factory (is it Kunming Optics?) and that they'd be the same binoculars as the 15x70 (£102) but with a different branding.

Crucially they were over £50 cheaper at £47.

They arrived promptly and I was initially pleased as they definitely look identical in design to the Strathspey binos. I took them up to the vantage point and realised instantly that they are poor performers in terms of surface brightness, contrast and overall clarity. Lots of wee faults here and there. I also realised that although they might share a similar body to the Strathspey binos there were small differences, e.g. there's a good amount of lubricant running up and down the body that the eyepieces slide up and down on when you twist the focusing knob with the Strathspey binos but with the other ones there's no obvious lubricant and the focussing knob is markedly stiffer to turn.

I'm returning them tomorrow and will use the refund to buy proper giantish binoculars. In one way I'm glad I got to try the 15x70s as I now realise that I'll need a larger magnification binocular for what I'm wanting to do with them, perhaps something like a 20x80 Revelation or 25x70 Celestron Skymaster.

Are the Revelation binoculars better than the Celestron Skymasters? Others I've seen or read about are the TS Optics 20x80 LE Series or the Konus at the same size and magnification.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/15x70-Quality-Astronomy-Observation-Binoculars/dp/B00BI087JC/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1365366968&sr=8-3&keywords=15x70

I suppose if I saved until later on this year I could afford better binoculars, like the TS Optics 20x80 Triplet Semi-APO binoculars. I just don't know if there'd be a huge difference in performance over something like the Revelation 20x80s for £92.

http://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p1421_20-x-80-Porro-binocular---triplet-semi-APO---w--tripod-adapter.html

I do have a tripod to mount them on.

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I would avoid the 25x70s as they are probably nearer 60mm working aperture, together with x25 will make them dark and shaky.

I had a pair of the Triplet 20x80s and optically they were very good but the pair I had slipped focus above 45º.

If you can stretch to £300 i would recommend the TS Marine 15x70s [Helios Apollo], guaranteed satisfaction for the price.

Or buy the less expensive pairs of the different sizes/configurations and decide on the size and model that suits you, a bit time consuming.....

For example the difference in size and weight between 15x70 and 20x80 is quite large and most 80s are actually nearer 70mm anyway.

You can always upgrade from the Revelations later, if you find a size you enjoy.

Hope this makes sense.

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I first had cheap and cheerful 15x70s and they were OK, especially for the price. However, I did start to notice shortcomings after a while, notably instability in the focusing mechanism (wobble). I now have the Helios Apollos, and they are much much better. Individual focusing means nothing ever slips. Much crisper views, and you can still use them for short spells without tripod, which means zero setup time. Bigger 20x80s are tripod only affairs.

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I started out with a pair of 20x80 skymasters. They are OK, but have to be tripod mounted for anything other than a quick eyeball. Laying down on a sun lounger does help considerably in terms of comfort though, much better than a tripod.

The bins themselves optically are mediocre in my view. They put up an amount of CA on bright objects like the moon and planets are small and pointless in them. This also applies to terretsial and day time viewing. But that isn't really their purpose, they are for widefield astronomical viewing and at that they do well. The 20x magnification is very nice, perhaps a little too much at time but the 80 aperture is also nice. The focuser knob is a bit stiff for me too. The inbuilt tripod mount is adquate but often works itself loose quite easily. Optically they are what you would expect from low to medium priced astro equipment. I've never got pin sharp stars, always thinking I could do with just a little more tweak than I got, so never fully satisfied. Maybe I am just expecting the performance I get from my telescopes?

The 15x70 are a smaller cousin and I've used them too. They dont feel as well built to me but good for the price. I caught PANSTARRS in both breeds and it looked better in the 15x70 as it was slightly brighter albeit smaller. Once you get past 20x you have to start to question why you aren't using a telescope instead in my opinion.

Edited by Stargazing00

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For any of these budget Chinese bins I'd suggest shopping with a reputable trader like Telescope House. The quality control seems a bit shaky (although my 15x70s are great) and a good retailer gives you the confidence that you can return them if the collimation is squiffy, or they have other issues.

I'm pretty sure the Revelation and Celestron 15x70s are the same, so I can't understand why the Celestrons tend to cost more.

I also wouldn't go for 25x70s, for the reasons stated above. For 25x mag, you need 25x100, which are a wholly different prospect to 15x70s. They're massive! Need a really solid tripod.

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Thanks for the feedback.

I'll be using these giant binoculars for terrestrial viewing and astronomy, although I'd choose a binocular better suited to terrestrial viewing over stargazing if I had the choice because I already own the Strathspey 10x50s which are genuinely very impressive (clear views, lots of contrast, wide FOV, can read some large signs/adverts miles down the road) and are pretty good for observing the sky. Obviously I'd opt for a binocular that did both equally well.

tetenterre

After doing lots of research I've learned a lot about binoculars, the manufacturing process behind them and the glass/lenses inside them because of your posts on these forums.

I was hoping you'd comment on this thread as I'm slightly confused about why binoculars that appear almost identical in terms of design and build and seem to come from the same factory as the Strathspey binoculars don't perform at the same level. Is it because there's a binning process in the factory like you get with CPUs and other computer components - i.e. after the manufacturing process is completed the units are tested and the best performers go in the bin representing the top of the range component while the others go into bins that denote cheaper components that don't perform as well as the components in the top bin. In the case of the 15x70 binoculars the ones that perform best go in, say, the Strathspey bin and the others go to gadget shops, ebay and third party sellers on places like Amazon.

Also, out of the Strathspey 20x60 (£83.99) and Revelation 20x80 (£92) which is likely to offer bright views with good clarity and brightness for terrestrial use? Are there any other binoculars under £100 that you'd recommend?

JonF

Thankfully I bought them through Amazon, so it should be straightforward to return them given the distance selling rules. I've never encountered an issue when returning stuff either directly to Amazon or one of their 3rd party traders.

The tripod I've got isn't great but it holds the 10x50 Strathspey and 15x70s easily. I bought quite a sturdy L-bracket from Strathspey a few months ago. If I'm stuck I can turn to an uncle who owns a photography shop and has loads of stuff lying about.

Space Dragon

Thanks for all that information and advice. Yeah, I'd love to own some Helios Apollo or Quantum binoculars. They seem great and come in a good range of different apertures and magnifications. One day hopefully! Thanks for the advice about the 80mm apertures coming in at closer to 70mm and the fact that 25x with a small aperture will return darkish images.

Michael

I think I read on a thread here that most consider 15x70 to be about the limit in terms of holding and aiming by hand. Thankfully I have a tripod and my car is a perfect height at the spot I go to for me to use the roof to support my arms. Generally I don't have any issues with holding the 10x50s or the recent 15x70s for a decent duration of time. There will be a point though where the centre of gravity and the length of the bino tubes will make it considerably more difficult to hold them by hand for anything but seconds at a time.

If I could get some Helios Q or A binoculars for under £100 - new or used and in good condition - I'd be extremely interested as they seem like great binoculars.

Stargazing00

Thanks for sharing your view of the Celestron Skymasters. If they perform at a similar level to the Revelation binos then I'm probably best just going with Strathspey again as I know how good John's binoculars are.

I take your point re. the benefit of having them over a telescope once you get to the larger apertures but these will mainly be used for terrestrial viewing, although I will still want to point them to the skies sometimes, but I already have the Strathspey 10x50s and are impressed by how capable they are at stargazing.

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Hmm, this is odd. I didn't get the chance to take them to the Post Office today and as the weather got a bit better earlier I took them to a local vantage point as something had given me pause for thought re. their abilities.

Oddly they performed much better than they had before and were showing lots of good detail on faraway objects. Still, they aren't perfect and there is something wrong with the image/light as it appears at the bottom of the view from them. I don't know what it's called but there seems to be additional light, a kind of bloom, curving across the bottom of the image, and it's especially apparent if you move the binoculars as you look through them. Anybody know what this is called? CA?

Anyway, I guess you pay the additional £50 to Strathspey to ensure that you don't end up with 15x70s that perform like that. Not sure if it is worth sending them back to pay an additional £40-50 to ensure that I don't see it. Yes, it is annoying and detracts from the viewing experience but I still have the opportunity - I hope - to ask the company I bought them from if it's possible for them to check a pair for the same issue and then possibly return my own in exchange for the better pair. Seems like the sensible thing to do assuming it is possible.

I'm trying to save for other items - DSLR and some bits and bobs for my scope - so saving additional money would be beneficial.

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tetenterre

I was hoping you'd comment on this thread as I'm slightly confused about why binoculars that appear almost identical in terms of design and build and seem to come from the same factory as the Strathspey binoculars don't perform at the same level.

See http://binocularsky.com/binoc_choosing.php#4

Tab on Tapatalk

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Thank you, tetenterre.

I have been to that website and read some of the articles but must have missed that one. Did the Strathspey 15x70s used to cost around £150? They're currently £102, but would you say - and I know this is difficult without actually using the binoculars I bought - that returning the £47 Amazon 15x70s and buying the Strathspey binoculars is worth the additional outlay?

For instance, will the Strathspey binoculars have the full 70mm aperture compared to mine which I'll assume have an effective aperture of something between 65-62mm given previous posts I've read about Kunming variants. I should follow your guide to measuring the aperture to see what it actually is. I have a green laser so that method should work.

Thanks

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Did the Strathspey 15x70s used to cost around £150?
I don't know -- you can always ask John Burns.
They're currently £102, but would you say - and I know this is difficult without actually using the binoculars I bought - that returning the £47 Amazon 15x70s and buying the Strathspey binoculars is worth the additional outlay?
Again, I don't know. It really depends on the individual items and, as you are probably aware, QC of budget binoculars at United Optics is, at best, minimal.
For instance, will the Strathspey binoculars have the full 70mm aperture
No. I measured it at 62mm.
I should follow your guide to measuring the aperture to see what it actually is. I have a green laser so that method should work.
Much easier to use an LED (e.g. phone flash) at around 6-8" away; no need for a beam widener, which you do need with a laser.

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Hmm, this is odd. I didn't get the chance to take them to the Post Office today and as the weather got a bit better earlier I took them to a local vantage point as something had given me pause for thought re. their abilities.

Oddly they performed much better than they had before and were showing lots of good detail on faraway objects. Still, they aren't perfect and there is something wrong with the image/light as it appears at the bottom of the view from them. I don't know what it's called but there seems to be additional light, a kind of bloom, curving across the bottom of the image, and it's especially apparent if you move the binoculars as you look through them. Anybody know what this is called? CA?

Anyway, I guess you pay the additional £50 to Strathspey to ensure that you don't end up with 15x70s that perform like that. Not sure if it is worth sending them back to pay an additional £40-50 to ensure that I don't see it. Yes, it is annoying and detracts from the viewing experience but I still have the opportunity - I hope - to ask the company I bought them from if it's possible for them to check a pair for the same issue and then possibly return my own in exchange for the better pair. Seems like the sensible thing to do assuming it is possible.

I'm trying to save for other items - DSLR and some bits and bobs for my scope - so saving additional money would be beneficial.

The "kind of bloom, curving across the bottom of the image" could be internal reflection caused by a bright source of light just outside the FOV. Alternatively, I have seen the effect when the field lens of an eyepiece or a prism had been chipped at the edge. In this case you generally see it in just one side of the bins

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Thanks Michael and tetenterre. I've set the return process in motion and should have a refund by next week. I've managed to scrape a little more money together and will now have the ability to choose a better 15x70 binocular.

It looks like it's going to be between the Strathspey 15x70 and the Helios Quantum 4 equivalent. In terms of final price there isn't as big a difference between both models as I thought there would be, and there's at least two things drawing me closer to the Helios binoculars:

1 - I'll get a bulky aluminum carry case with them, which suits me as I'll be taking my bins with me to various vantage points.

2 - After doing some research I'm quite enthusiastic about trying the Helios brand of binoculars out. They seem to be very good performers.

On the other hand John is a very helpful person and I like the idea of supporting his business by giving them my custom. Also, I already know that the 10x50 Strathspey binoculars have impressed me and I'm sure the larger bins will do the same.

It's a difficult choice. Will need to think about it some more.

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It looks like it's going to be between the Strathspey 15x70 and the Helios Quantum 4 equivalent.
If you can afford it, get the Q4 -- no contest! (I concur with what you say about John Burns -- one of the very good people in astro retailing -- but in this case his product is not as good.)

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The TS 20x80 look nice. I have their 10x50 and I am very impressed with them, clear high-contrast views.

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I had a pair of 15x70 celestrons but had collimation issues, the Revelation ones I had were ok. I then had a pair of Revelation 25x100 which gave very nice views but TBH I have trouble using bins without my glasses, a prism in my left lens being the main problem.

The big bins whilst giving nice views I felt the focussing mechanism was the weak point. It was pretty much the same as a cheap pair, which I suppose is what they are for their size. Another problem with big bins on a tripod at night was being the straight through design, plays havoc on my neck. If I was to buy again for night time use a 45 degree would be better but makes no difference for day time.

I think I'm very sensitive to miss collimated optics that may not bother someone else.

For some strange reason I can use binoviewers in my scope without my glasses though.

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For some strange reason I can use binoviewers in my scope without my glasses though.
Smaller exit pupil reducing the aberrations of your eyes?

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Thanks for the posts and help guys. The order's now in for the Helios 15x70s. Couldn't resist that aluminium case, plus the fact that they seem to get very good reviews all across the internet. Since seeing Helios binoculars advertised on FLO I've felt a desire to try them out. The Strathspey binoculars would have been good but I have a feeling that the Quantum 4s will be slight better performers than them, and for the small difference in price (< than £20) they seemed like the obvious choice. I hope to buy some additional binoculars in the future (a set for birding and proper giant binoculars, i.e. at least 25x100s) and my first stop will be the Strathspey website.

Stardust

Thanks for your comments re. the Celestron binoculars. I'd read elsewhere that there have been issues with the build quality in the past. Still, £42 seemed like a great price for the 15x70s for the brief amount of time they were advertised on Amazon for at that price.

PorkyB

Yep, the German advertised triplets and their other binoculars seem like good performers at competitive prices. Are the binoculars on the TS Optics website manufactured in the Kunming Optics plant?

Very excited about trying these Helios binoculars. Christmas come early! I imagine they'll provide better views of the DSOs than my Celestron 127 Mak can with the eyepieces that I currently own for it (25 and 9mm stock, and a 12mm BST Explorer).

Will post up a review and nice pictures once I receive them.

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I have complete faith in John and Strathspey binoculars. When i ordered my 20x90 bins online from him, the cost of shipping was miscalculated and he sent me my order anyway and left it up to me to be honest and send him the extra cost after the bins arrived.

I sent him the extra...............not many companies would ship goods without full payment.

A nicer bloke you really cant deal with, unless you deal with FLO.

Edited by LukeSkywatcher

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I totally agree, Luke, and after realising my Amazon binoculars weren't up to the task my first thought was Strathspey binoculars. For the small difference in price I felt that I had to buy the Helios binoculars. It's absolutely nothing personal, rather it's purely because I have a very strong desire to try Helios binoculars out, and from reading reports here and there the Quantum 4s get a good review. Sure, they aren't Apollo 15x70s but my instinct was telling me to go for the Helios binos this time round.

I've been posting favourable comments about John's business on other forums in relevant threads, so hopefully that'll make up for me not buying from him this time round.

There's always the next purchase.

Out of interest, which Strathspey binoculars do you own? I vaguely remember reading a thread where you mentioned having either the 15x70s or 20x90s, is that correct? What are your thoughts. If anybody here owns the 25x100 giants I'd be interested to know how well they perform and which mount you're using them with.

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Hi I have the Strathspey 25x100 bins and haven't regretted the outlay. I use them for astronomy as a quick grab and go ( about 5 minutes from collection from house and setting up on tri pod to viewing). Very good views of orion nebula, Jupiter although small bands are visible, and my favorites M81 and 82 although very faint they can be seen with averted vision. I also use them for terrestrial use over land and plane spotting so I get my use from them. With them having individual eye focusing I dont struggle to focus a fast moving plane either. Optically wise I find them sharp but loose some around the edges but I believe thats common with most optics. They must be supported on a solid tri pod though as they are heavy and large and the tri pod I use is the horizon 8115 very rigid and well priced also available from FLO.

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Hi I have the Strathspey 25x100 bins and haven't regretted the outlay. I use them for astronomy as a quick grab and go ( about 5 minutes from collection from house and setting up on tri pod to viewing). Very good views of orion nebula, Jupiter although small bands are visible, and my favorites M81 and 82 although very faint they can be seen with averted vision. I also use them for terrestrial use over land and plane spotting so I get my use from them. With them having individual eye focusing I dont struggle to focus a fast moving plane either. Optically wise I find them sharp but loose some around the edges but I believe thats common with most optics. They must be supported on a solid tri pod though as they are heavy and large and the tri pod I use is the horizon 8115 very rigid and well priced also available from FLO.

You must have got a better example of the 8115 than I did, I found the head inadequate for my 2 1/2 kg 15x70 never mind a 25x100!

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You must have got a better example of the 8115 than I did, I found the head inadequate for my 2 1/2 kg 15x70 never mind a 25x100!

I've got total confidence in it very secure and steady, many friends have the same kind with no issues. If it cant handle the 17x50s then you def got a bad one.

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Catchem

Thanks for the info re. the Strathspey giants. Still interested in them but won't be buying any more bins until the end of the year.

Helios Quantum 4 15x70s

Very, very impressed by their build quality and ability to make stars and other celestial objects visible. You take them away from your face and look up wondering where it's finding all those stars as they can't be easily seen with the naked eye. Very impressive. I've also seen numerous satellites and on my very first viewing session with them a shooting star as soon as I put them up to my eyes.

Some things I don't like about them at the moment.

I prefer the rubber eye guard on the Strathspey binoculars as it does a better job of blocking light from entering your peripheral vision, whereas the Helios has solid plastic eyecups that twist up but allow light to enter from either side. When it does it causes issues with the quality of the image you see through the binoculars.

They are also harder to achieve focus with when you're looking at terrestrial objects compared to the 10x50s I own, but once you've done so the image is very impressive. Lots of clarity and contrast. But it does take longer to dial in the correct focus.

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